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Instant teas show varying range of fluoride levels

The tea plant takes in fluoride from soil and water. As a result, some instant teas have a high concentration of fluoride beyond that which is recommended to prevent tooth decay.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that the fluoride content of some instant teas ranges from 1.0 parts per million to as high as 6.5 ppm.

The higher levels are more than the 4 ppm maximum allowed in drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency and 2.4 ppm permitted in bottled water and beverages by the Food and Drug Administration. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that the fluoride concentration of community water supplies not exceed 1.2 ppm.

"The tea plant is known to accumulate fluoride from the soil and water. Our study points to the need for further investigation of the fluoride content of teas," says Michael Whyte, M.D., professor of medicine, pediatrics and genetics. "We don't know how much variation there is from brand to brand and year to year."

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is often added to community water supplies to help prevent tooth decay. The benefits of community water fluoridation are well-documented, says the American Dental Association.

Over-consumption of fluoride can result in a primarily cosmetic effect - enamel fluorosis - with no known health consequences. The vast majority of enamel fluorosis in the United States is mild to very mild-characterized by opaque-white, lacy markings across a tooth's enamel surface.

The cosmetic risk of enamel fluorosis can be greatly reduced without denying patients the decay preventive benefits of fluoride by following a few simple steps.

  • carefully monitor the use of all fluoride-containing dental products by children younger than 6 years of age;
  • ensure that young children use an appropriate size toothbrush with a small brushing surface and place only one pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste on the toothbrush at each brushing. Young children should always be supervised while brushing and taught to spit out, rather than swallow, the toothpaste;
  • consult with a dentist or physician prior to using a fluoride toothpaste with children under age 2 or a fluoride mouthrinse with children under 6 years of age;
  • dietary fluoride supplements should only be prescribed for children living in non-fluoridated areas.

For more information regarding fluoride, visit the ADA's Web site at "".

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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